Breastfeeding can be awkward, uncomfortable, tiring, upsetting, and emotionally draining. And don’t get me started on how the mother feels. August is National Breastfeeding Month, which is different than National Breastfeeding Week, because there are more days I suppose. As everyone devotes their attention to breastfeeding, I figured what people are really interested in hearing about is what a man has to say on the subject. While I wrote about the famous Time breastfeeding cover before (click here to read), I didn’t dive too much into what it is like to be a husband in the Milky Way; brace yourselves.
Eight years ago, when my son was born, I was prepared to have sleepless night, to change diapers, and to clean up various gross things. I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to be a breast supporter. Before you roll your eyes, try and picture this scenario. You’re alone with your baby and the baby is hungry. Now when babies are hungry, they don’t wait patiently. They scream and cry and when they get really mad, a blood curdling sound rushes out of their mouths. Sure there is a bottle of frozen milk in the freezer, but you can’t give it to the baby because as soon as you do, the mother will come home with leaky breasts and she’ll want the baby to drain them. But all dads have done it – they feel so badly for the crying baby that they thaw out the milk and hand over the bottle. And mom is stuck with a chest so tight it would cause jealousy throughout Hollywood. Now it is the mom that is yelling loudly. The dad can’t win.
Another uncomfortable moment occurs when the mom feeds in public. You see, we men are trained at an early age to protect those we love. That includes protection from the opinions of others. When the mom feeds, the guy see some of the looks people make, and it ticks us off. I have a bit of a temper and if I see a turned-up nose or cross glare, I usually give a dirty look back. I shouldn’t, but if my wife isn’t looking, I do it. Luckily, my grimace is mean enough that I’ve never had someone ask if I want to step out back (because I’m pretty sure that would ruin the breastfeeding moment).
There’s also that feeling of “what should I do?” when there is the need for a public feeding. Do I drape a blanket over her or do I sit by and do nothing? If I hand her the blanket, she might be upset that I’m trying to make the scene discreet, which might cause the baby to be more uncomfortable or offend her new feminist sensibilities. If I don’t do anything, then I might upset her for not trying to help. Decisions, decisions.
Or how about the one when the baby is simply grumpy and the only thing that can calm him down is to suckle on some boob? Fellas, how does that make you feel, knowing that no matter what you do, you can’t comfort your child?
I realize that how I feel is pretty small in the big picture. The most important thing is that my child is getting the nutrition he needs. My wife and I are a breastfeeding team and it is my job to make sure that she has my complete support. Too often, mothers do not get the support they need from their loved ones and they give up. We have had three kids and my wife has breastfed them all. It hasn’t always been easy, from those first tries with my first son, to pumping around the clock when my daughter was in the NICU, to the current 3:00 a.m. feeding with the new baby. In the big picture timeline of our lives, the difficult moments are short. Realizing that has helped us get through everything.